Midwestern newlyweds ex-Green Beret Randy Weaver (Randy Quaid) and religious zealot Vicki (Laura Dern in a pip of a perf) baffle her mother, Irma (Diane Ladd), and dad, Ralph (G.W. Bailey), with their religious excesses and insistence on universal doom. Their prophetic announcements amuse yet worry their neighbors (Becky Ann Baker, Michael Girardini).
The Weavers head to northern Idaho, and racist Randy builds their Ruby Ridge home by hand. Stern Vicky quotes the Bible and calls on Yahweh, while Randy, playing it rugged, is suspected of stealing items from neighbors. A curious young man, Kevin (Darren Burrows of “Northern Exposure”), wanders in to help hold the fort, but it’s an ancillary role.
TX: TX:Filmed in Chico, Calif., by Edgar J. Scherick Associates, the Regan Co. and Victor Television Prods. Exec producers, Edgar J. Scherick, Judith Regan; producer, Robert Phillips; director, Roger Young; writer, Lionel Chetwynd; based on book “Every Knee Shall Bow” by Jess Walter; The Weaver home life is more bizarre than idyllic. They have a son, two daughters and a baby on the way. Certain they’ll be arrested or attacked by the government because of passages they’ve read in the Bible, the Weavers load the cellar with food and arm themselves to the gills. Vicki teaches the kids reading and writing; dad teaches them how to stand guard, defend the home and launch an assault.
They have no real friends. Tony Vickers (John Dennis Johnston) tries, but falls away. Randy, allying himself with the Aryan Nation, knows that Jews, blacks and whatevers are running everything. Well, the Weavers aren’t going to succumb to them.
The danger of government agents is omnipresent, and Randy’s always on the alert. Despite his precautions, he sells sawed-off shotguns to a fed and is arrested. He’s out awaiting trial when the FBI, state police and marshals, backed by choppers and tanks, take on the fortress. People on both sides die, and violence worshipers will see lots of blood as the Weavers confront overwhelming forces.
Trouble with the vidpic is that no one’s sympathetic — pathetic, maybe, but otherwise stubborn and ill-informed. Vicky can’t compromise with what she sees as evil, and Randy resists those who are attacking him; their motives are pure, but how they got into this fix remains a mystery.
The government is shown as having too much to do to make intelligent decisions, and the Weavers’ neighbors are fed up with their behavior. The story is so well told that it’s a jolt to realize that everyone’s a loser.
Dern is splendid as the dedicated Vicky who harbors no self-doubts. Quaid’s Randy is a full measure of purposeful defiance. Especially subtle is the perf by Diane Ladd, who’s Dern’s real-life mother. Burrows suffices as the loyal Kevin, and Kirsten Dunst is first-rate as Sara, the shrill older daughter. G.W. Bailey is solid as Vicky’s concerned father.
Young’s direction of the deadly tale is stunning. Cary White’s selection of Chico sites in northern California and his homey concepts for family-oriented interiors are to the good. Donald M. Morgan’s lensing is superior; editing by Benjamin A. Weissman, Dennis C. Vejar builds the interplay between the Weavers and the law.